Last Friday Bruce Ballenger spoke here in motown at a regional teaching of composition forum put on by a big textbook publisher. He had a lot of useful things to say about how we teach argumentation. In particular, I appreciated a questionnaire he shared that he uses with his students when he introduces research-based writing assignments. These ten questions get at how and why we do research. I'd like to use a version of this with my civic literacy class in the coming weeks.
For each question, the student answers on a 1-5 scale, 1 meaning "strongly agree" and 5 meaning "strongly disagree.
Ballenger had workshop attendees use the 1-5 scale, answering in one column for what we think, and in a separate column for what most of our students think. This activity led to a good discussion of our own perceived gulfs between students and ourselves. Here are the questions.
1. There’s a big difference between facts and opinions.
2. Most of what you read in books is true.
3. Stories that don’t have an ending or clear conclusions are very good stories.
4. Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion and you can’t say that one opinion is better than another.
5. Most problems have one best solution no matter how difficult they are.
6. How much you get out of school depends on the quality of the teacher.
7. Most words have one clear meaning.
8. When I study I look for specific facts.
9. People who challenge authority are over-confident.
10. Scientists can ultimately get to the truth.